PALMER — The young adult fiction section of the Wasilla Public Library is expected to be temporarily relabeled “adult fiction” while librarians wait for direction on how to make decisions about challenged books.
The label change recommendation, made by Wasilla library director Zane Treesh at a city council meeting Monday, would swap out the “young adult fiction” labels on five rows of shelving tucked just outside the glass-encased children’s area.
Instead, Treesh said during the meeting, the labels would read “adult fiction.”
“We’ll put signs up at the end of the shelving saying that these are now an adult area, all of them,” he said.
The suggestion followed a city council conversation — part of it during a closed executive session — about the process used by library officials to review books flagged by members of the public for reconsideration.
Like many other public libraries across the state, the Wasilla library includes a series of shelves lined with books emblazoned with a yellow “YA” tag on the spine and targeting readers 14 to 17 years old. The more than 2,000 titles in the Wasilla young adult collection range from about 100 volumes of the classic Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries to titles challenged nationwide as inappropriate for teen readers, including “Tilt” and “Identical” by Ellen Hopkins, which contain themes of sexuality and drug use.
Under the city’s current process, if someone challenges a library book, a panel including librarians and other community members decides whether to remove or relocate them after a public hearing where the person contesting the book can testify.
Wasilla city officials started to look at changing that process after receiving a complaint early this month that the process violated at least one person’s civil liberties by limiting how she used her testimony time.
The council asked Treesh, the library director, to provide information how books are selected for the library and the reconsideration process when books are challenged. After his remarks, the council held an executive session with Holly Wells, an attorney for the city, to discuss possible changes to the consideration process that could ultimately give the council more sway in what books stay on shelves.
Before starting that session, Wells warned such a change would require the council to alter its current policies and procedures.
Rather than update the rules now, Wells recommended the city wait for more information on two ongoing issues that could change the outcome of what the city is legally allowed to do: a warning from the state’s attorney general to libraries that they should block children’s access to books with sexual content; and a lawsuit that contends the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District violated students’ constitutional rights when officials removed 56 protested books from library shelves early this year.
Instead, Wells recommended that members of the council who want more involvement in the challenge process personally challenge specific books using the existing public hearing process.
“As a matter of law, I would ask that you use the channels as a citizen … and avoid directing policy and procedure or the outcome of that policy and procedure,” she said.
As of Wednesday, the young adult fiction label remained in place at the Wasilla library. It wasn’t clear when any relabeling could occur. Treesh, the library director, declined to comment Wednesday, saying he is required to get Wasilla Mayor Glenda Ledford’s approval before speaking to the media. Ledford was out of the office and unable to review media requests Wednesday, an assistant said by email.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the makeup of a Wasilla library book reconsideration panel. The panel includes community members as well as librarians.